I’m from Minnesota, but thanks to a childhood earful of NPR, I don’t drag the letter “O” across my tongue like a cheap pair of nylons snagging up a stubbly leg, or end statements with the open-ended “Eh?” So I usually prattle unnoticed under the brushy twangs and baroque rrrrrrs of my adopted state. But I was busted in the elevator the other day by a gentleman of the sunset years, who asked me to push the “3” and then pounced when I said “You bet.”
“You’re from the Midwest, aren’t you?” he demanded, maybe 4 feet in his scrunched black nylon ankle socks. A plastic grocery sack, weighted with hard pucks of cat food, swung ominously from a muscular little forearm. In retrospect I wish I’d called him out for the nosy New Joysey transplant he is. (“Garden State” my cold, ice-fishin’ ass.)
So, yeah, I’m from the Midwest. Not only do I agreeably push elevator buttons for codgers who are clearly capable of pushing the goddam things themselves (and clearly in some sort of witness-protection or CIA-retirement program), I tend to take people at their word, despite centuries of demonstrable bad consequences for doing so. It is, plainly, a failure of Darwinism that I’m even here, typing about Texas Senatorial candidates.
Perhaps it’s also a failure of Darwinism that John Cornyn is a Texas Senator. In any event, thank your lucky Lone Star that two tolerable Democratic candidates have declared their desire to unseat the junior lawmaker.
On the left, you have Mikal Watts, legal protégé and self-made multi-millionnaire — the kind of plaintiff’s lawyer that reminds you why plaintiff’s lawyers are an evolutionary plus (corporations sometimes knowingly do bad things to people). On the left-left, you have State Representative Rick Noriega of Houston, who has a distinguished military career and a 100-percent rating from Planned Parenthood.
They each feature in a variation of the Democratic wet dream: Watts can write big fat checks ... to himself! He’s not firmly pro-choice, in Texas, where a statewide winner will have to lure big chunks of conservative suburbia. Noriega has served with distinction in Afghanistan and on the Tex-Mex border with the Texas National Guard.
Neither is without his liabilities. Cornyn’s campaign is already working overtime to marshal the Republican base against trial-lawyer Watts. Five-term rep Noriega is endorsed by dozens of his Democratic lege colleagues. Which sounds good, unless you’re a member of the general public, which generally shares the reaction of an Independent businessman friend of mine: “Ugh! Of course they endorse one of their own!” The outsider appeal is still strong among swing voters.
So, let’s see ... where was I? Midwest ... right. A few years back, when the blogosphere really got cookin’, I took it at its word: It would be the new journalism. It would speak truth to power, tell the real story.
Turns out, many of them just wanted to be kingmakers. July 19 has been annointed Blogosphere Day — a virtual holiday celebrating not a printing press in every wo/man/child’s hands, but the ability to raise enough political capital to be players. (The apocryphal race: Ginny Schrader’s run for an open Pennsylvania seat. Dkosopedia.com calls Schrader, “the recipient of what is now considered to be the most important blogosphere action of the 2004 cycle.”) In and of itself I don’t have a problem with this — netroots activisim does in many ways counteract the problem of media access for poorer candidates and support grassroots organizing.
It’s troublesome, though, when the progressive blogosphere wants to pick a candidate for me when the race has barely begun, as they have done with Noriega — see Draftricknoriega.com. I’m a critic of Mikal Watts’s pro-choice shortcomings `see The MashUp, June 13-19`, but I’m excited to have two viable primary candidates. There are many critical issues our next junior senator needs to lead on, from the war to health care to alternative energy. The job of the press, virtual or otherwise, is to help the public make an informed decision, which means weighing many variables over a period of time and candidate exposure.
Can we trust media outlets that sound like run-of-the-mill campaign letters to do that? “Noriega is the only progressive candidate in this race, the only pro-choice candidate in this race, and the only people-powered candidate in this race. His record speaks for itself,” wrote Capitolannex.com in a July 20 donations plea. If his record speaks for itself, then I expect they won’t be examining it very closely. That might be a revolution in something, but it’s not a revolution in journalism.